Indie rockers Guster brought their brief winter run of shows to New Haven, CT’s College Street Music Hall this past Friday, and for it they brought out all the stops: big energy, endless laughs, crowd participation, new material, and more. The College Street crowd came in full size and and with totally open hearts, and the band matched the room’s childlike excitement all night long.
With the start of “Long Night,” Guster lead man Ryan Miller was on the glockenspiel to start, and his random metallic plucks on it topped off the feel-good essence that colors Guster’s material, and that would permeate through this whole night. “The Captain” started to bring out the band’s visible enthusiasm. Guitarist Luke Reynolds was beaming smiles, and dancing a bit, as he ripped the first true solo of the night, a great and reeling one. It was after this one that the band’s noteworthy humor showed up to the party. Miller singled out a texter on the GA floor. The crowd booed in huge unison, and he immediately felt bad. “Wait, no, no booing. I just meant—be with us!”
“Ruby Falls” then dropped on the audience like a golden wave of joy. The tune has a terrific downstep from its intro onto it’s first big chord, and the band hammered it out together, and this rocketed the song and the rest of show towards a high level of energy. “Doin’ It By Myself” carried this same happy vibe down a more laid back backroad.
At this point in the evening, Miller relayed a brief story about a man named Marty emailing the band about this night’s show being him and his wife’s thirtieth show, as well as the latter’s birthday. Could she come up and play with the band for her birthday? It’s Guster, so of course she could! Marty’s wife, Jen Michaels, took to the stage to play cello with the band on their tune “So Long,” and with the crowd’s excitement connecting with her own, it was a great moment in a night of great moments.
From here, the band got a bit down a dirtier with their rock, with their two man drum team starting to really push the power of the tunes. “Come Downstairs and Say Hello” hit it’s thumping, dance-rock back half with a great, tight stride. Down the back half the show, Guster dipped into old school hits like “Do You Love Me?” “Satellite,” and “Lighting Rod.” Mirror these classics with a song not even finished yet! Nor named yet. Miller introduced a number that is apparently still on the drawing board, that they were going to try live for only the second time. Yet, despite its newness, the band could’ve convinced you that the dancey, indie-pop number had been in the wheelhouse for awhile.
On “Never Coming Down,” which can really best be described as a tune Wilco might’ve co-wrote with Jimmy Buffet if they met him on the beach, drummer Brian Rosenworcel picked up a trombone and and guitarist Adam Gardner picked up his trumpet, and the two traded off what sounded like anti-solos—funny, cacophonous dribble set against this island beat number.
Near the time of the show’s closing, Miller turned to the mic, and told the crowd: “Luke has just informed me that he needs to go to the bathroom. So, here’s the game plan: two more songs, Luke pee break, three more songs. Sound cool?”
If that didn’t get the crowd laughing hard enough, Luke’s bathroom break improv jam did. While the guitarist did indeed leave the stage to relieve himself, Miller took to his robo-alien voice changer and lead the other three members on a swinging, actually almost epic little song describing just what was happening.
The band kicked off their three-song encore stretch with another brand new one, “Summertime,” and what a winner this tune is. The band channeled here a real likeness to The Flaming Lips—not a bad thing at all. A quirky composition, but not without that same surreal sense of positivity that Guster imbues in their sound better than any other band. They tacked on a “Chariots of Fire” to the end of “Homecoming King,” before sending off the night with “Demons.” Audience members hung around post show, murmuring over the alt-rock high they all just climbed together, and lingerers were met with a final surprise for the night: Miller walked back out and through slices of pizza off the stage.
At some moment in the night long before the throwing of the pizza, Miller had addressed the fact that 2018 makes year number twenty-seven for Guster. Suffice to say, in 2018 the band sounds as alive, and as creative, as ever.
Guster played House of Blues Boston the following night. As of now, no more future live dates are listed.
Article and Photos by Miles Hurley